TRANSPORT INS. CO. v. TIG INS. CO.
202 Cal.App.4th 984 (2012)
Court of Appeals of California, First District, Division Two.
January 13, 2012.
Transport had also filed its objections to TIG's special instructions, which as pertinent here, included the following: "Special Instruction No. 2: Violates this Court's Orders on the statute of limitations affirmative defense. The issue is when the claims accrued: the four year time period accrued either when TIG definitively denied the claim; or when a reasonable period passed after submission of the final proofs of loss." (Italics added.)
Prior to trial Judge Woolard dealt with in limine motions, one of which was TIG's motion to bifurcate, to try first the statute of limitations defense. Judge Woolard indicated her inclination to deny the motion, following which counsel for TIG attempted to convince her to change her mind. Replying, counsel for Transport argued as follows: "Your Honor, that completely misstates the issue in a reinsurance context. It's a rehash of their failed summary judgment motion. That was one of the arguments that they made in their motion, and it was rejected by this Court in favor of applying the holding of Stronghold which the Court found the persuasive authority as the only authority relevant to the issue of accrual. [¶] ... [¶] Our claim is a breach of contract claim which under the holding of Stronghold and this Court's adoption of that holding in this case as the law in the case, it accrues when TIG or Seaton denied the claim. And that's when the four years start, or a reasonable time after submission of the final proofs of loss, which goes into, of course, custom and practice on all fronts including supplementing proofs of loss."
The jury instruction ultimately given on the statute of limitations was as follows: "Affirmative defense statute of limitations. [¶] In this case, Transport's claims against the defendant accrued after Transport submitted its claims to defendants and when, one, defendants denied the claims, or, two, a reasonable period of time elapsed after the submission of the claims without a decision by the defendants. [¶] If Seaton either denied the claims or a reasonable period of time elapsed following submission of the claims by January 30, 2002, Transport's claims against Seaton were filed too late and are time barred. [¶] If TIG either denied the claims or a reasonable period of
time elapsed following submission of the claims by January 26, 2002, Transport's claims against TIG were filed too late and are time barred."
The genesis of this instruction is central to the issue here and will be discussed in detail below. Suffice it to say here that at the least Transport agreed to this instruction—if it did not propose it.
The parties agreed to submit the matter with special verdict forms as to each reinsurer, asking the jury to answer specific questions, the first of which was, "Do you find that Transport timely filed its lawsuit against [the particular reinsurer]?"
Transport's closing argument was late in the afternoon of June 5, following which Judge Woolard gave her concluding instructions, instructed the clerk to swear the bailiff, and the matter was then in the hands of the jury. It was "close to 4:30." At 11:16 a.m. the next morning, the jury returned with the verdicts, answering "No" to the two questions numbered 1.
Judgment was entered on June 9.